ChronoZoom An Infinite Canvas in Time

ChronoZoom is an open-source community project dedicated to visualizing the history of everything. Big History is the attempt to understand, in a unified, interdisciplinary way, the history of cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity. By using Big History as the story line, ChronoZoom seeks to bridge the gap between the humanities and sciences an enable all this information to be easily understandable and navigable.
Try ChronoZoom 2.0 Beta

ChronoZoom was developed to make time relationships between different studies of history clear and vivid. In the process, it provides a framework for exploring related electronic resources. It thus serves as a “master timeline” tying together all kinds of specialized timelines and electronic resources, and aspires to bridge the gap between humanities and the sciences and to bring together and unify all knowledge of the past.

You can browse through history on ChronoZoom to find data in the form of articles, images, video, sound, and other media. ChronoZoom links a wealth of information from five major regimes that unifies all historical knowledge collectively known as Big History.

By drawing upon the latest discoveries from many different disciplines, you can visualize the temporal relationships between events, trends, and themes. Some of the disciplines that contribute information to ChronoZoom include biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, prehistory, archeology, anthropology, economics, cosmology, natural history, and population and environmental studies.

This project has been funded and supported by Microsoft Research Connections in collaboration with University California at Berkeley and Moscow State University.


Our Vision

We envision a world where scientists, researchers, students, and teachers collaborate through ChronoZoom to share information via data, tours, and insight. Imagine a world where the leading academics publish their findings to the world in a manner that can easily be accessed and compared to other data. Imagine a tool that allows teachers to generate tours specific to their classroom needs.

This can happen with your support. We need your feedback to continue to mold this project to suit your needs. Try ChronoZoom and then provide feedback and vote for features by taking the survey. This will help us priorities the next feature set.

We will focus on community development of features, capabilities, and content. We plan to work with two communities:

  • One community will consist of content providers, humanities and science researchers, think tanks, ischools, and organizations that have digital libraries, digital content, and cultural content. The goal is that the content will be viewed in a time-based tool that will help the history of everything come to life by uniting humanities and science stories.Content examples: history of particle physics; history of chemical reactions; climate change; history of the Nile, which could include cultural and scientific data; and the history of Polynesian culture.
  • The other community will consist of members of computer science departments and ischools who are interested in big data, data visualization, database design, and informatics. This community will help us build out the next set of features for ChronoZoom to support the needs of researchers and professors.

Big Questions

Some big questions we are trying to answer with ChronoZoom:

  • How do you organize huge amounts (terabytes and more) of different types of data (such as audio, video, text, PDF files, and images) logically and so they’re easily consumable?
  • How do you retain precision while displaying historical information ranging from billions of years ago to today on one scale?
  • How do you prioritize content when you have multiple items for the same time period? For example, an Egyptian history timeline, a Chinese cultural history timeline, an Islamic history timeline, a Japanese-American history timeline, and a particle physics timeline might all share a significant event on the same date in the year 1890—how do you display this on the timeline canvas?
  • How do you efficiently draw elements on the canvas by using HTML Document Object Model (DOM) graphical elements and not sacrifice CPU usage?
  • How do you ensure the same experience on multiple devices, operating systems, and browsers, so that users will have the exact same experience whether they use a Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone, or Android device?
  • How do you make a third-party authoring tool that incorporates an editorial board approval process and provides online journal annotations to populate the timeline—enabling a new type of peer review of entries?
  • Do you require an author to build the timeline and create the story line, or do you automate the pull of data from all creative-commons, freely available datasets and libraries on the Internet?
  • How do you compare multiple timelines and data sets?
  • How do you retain the ambiguity of history? There are many interpretations of history, and much disagreement among experts about historical events; how do you ensure that students of history have access to the diverse historical information so that they can analyze it and develop their own interpretation of what happened?

Potential Future Features

Some of the possible future features could enable the user to:

  • Create personal canvas/timeline/tours
  • Generate internal user bookmarks
  • Generate a chart dynamically and place it where they want on the timeline
    • Display curve and segmented line graphs and plot events coded for magnitude
    • Phylogenetic trees
    • Svg drawing
  • Filter exhibits based on subject
  • Choose data from data library
  • Customize time direction up to down, down to up, left to right, right to left
  • Compare data and timelines
  • Share timelines or tours with others via social networking
  • Display the uncertainty of dates (approximate dates)
  • Show a time range in addition to a specific date in time
  • Present multiple interpretations
  • Display geo-spacial data



Microsoft Research Connections and the ChronoZoom Project promote the establishment of relationships with academics and other partners (like publishers, broadcasters, NGOs, foundations, and organizations that have rich digital media content that crosses the sciences and humanities) to create valuable user experiences with this new technology. As data gets added to the platform, others can share access to enrich their experiences as well.

Get Involved!

  • Try ChronoZoom 2.0 Beta to learn about history or use it in the classroom.
  • Take the survey to vote for features and provide us with valuable feedback.
  • If you are a with computer science department and would like to provide information to include in ChronoZoom, such as data visualizations, data management, and natural user interfaces,
  • If you are a researcher or with an organization that has a significant digital collection or expertise in historic events, help us grow ChronoZoom by


Microsoft Research ChronoZoom Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *